In Scotland and beyond, a clootie well is a sacred spot, where strips of cloth are tied to trees above a water source. Each piece of cloth represents a wish for healing. A similarly comforting tradition is the clootie dumpling. This time, the cloth is used in the cooking process: Cooks place a traditional sweet pudding in a cloth sack before boiling it.
Ingredients vary, but often include breadcrumbs, suet, spices, and dried fruit. These days, a pillowcase often serves as the sack. After slipping the dough inside, cooks tie the bag at the top, then boil it for several hours. The result is a dense, spiced cake with a thick skin. Since its recipe calls for boiling a traditional pudding in a bag, the clootie dumpling has been called the sweet version Scotland’s other famed dish: haggis, which replaces the sweet cake and cloth sack with savory offal and an animal’s stomach.
The clootie dumpling is a homey treat that’s usually eaten in the winter months, for holidays such as Christmas, Hogmanay, and Burns Night. It sometimes might contain fortune-telling trinkets for eaters to find, such as a coin for wealth or a thimble for spinsterhood. But these days, the usual embellishments are simply cream or custard.
Need to Know
While typically a wintertime treat, plenty of shops sell clootie dumplings around Scotland all year, sometimes by the slice.